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Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement

The Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement, first presented in 1988, celebrates the career of an artist who, among other distinctions, has demonstrated particular commitment to their work throughout a long career and has had an important impact nationally and internationally on the field.

2021 WINNER

Samella Lewis  

CAA’s Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement celebrates an artist who has demonstrated particular commitment to their work throughout a long career with national and international impact. The life of Samella Lewis, our 2021 award recipient, embodies both criteria. Lewis, the Godmother of African American art,” has helped empower generations of artists in the United States and around the world. Following a childhood in Jim Crow–era New Orleans, Lewis was educated at Dillard University, the Hampton Institute. She was the first African American to earn a PhD in art history at Ohio State University. Mentored by Elizabeth Catlett and Charles White, Lewis embodied the visual culture of the civil rights movement through her prints. In addition to her studio practice, Lewis advocated African American art by writing for and creating exhibition venues. In 1975 she founded The International Review of African American Art magazine; the following year, she opened LA’s Museum of African American Art. Her book, African American Art and Artists, originally published in 1978, was updated in subsequent editions and remains an important examination of more than two centuries of Black art and artists in the United States. For decades Lewis was a committed educator, guiding students at Morgan State University, State University of New York at Plattsburgh, California State University Dominguez Hills, California State University Long Beach, and Florida A&M University, where, in 1953, Lewis organized the first professional conference for African American artists. Supported by a Fulbright Fellowship, Lewis studied in Taiwan in 1962 then accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Southern California. She moved to Los Angeles in 1964 and taught for many years at Scripps College. In addition to her Fulbright, Lewis has been honored with a Charles White Lifetime Award (1993), with a UNICEF Award for the Visual Arts (1995), by being named a Getty Distinguished Scholar (1997), and by being interviewed by the HistoryMakers Archives (2003). Over the past decade her art has been showcased at Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Stella Jones Gallery in New Orleans. Through her persistence and generosity, Lewis has demonstrated her belief that art isn’t a luxury but an absolute “necessity” that “documents history” for the “generations to come.”   

Jury: Beauvais Lyons, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Jessica S. Hong, Hood Museum of Art; Helen O’Toole, University of Washington; and Lisa Austin, Civitas Social Sculpture. 

PAST WINNERS

One of CAA’s most illustrious prizes, the Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement has recognized the long, prominent, and influential careers of many contemporary artists, among them Joan Mitchell and Louise Bourgeois in the 1980s; Willem de Kooning, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and John Baldessari in the 1990s; and Alison Knowles, Elizabeth Murray, and Chris Burden in the present decade.

2020 Eleanor Antin   
Jury: Mira Schor, Independent Artist, chair; Nancy Bowen, Purchase College, State University of New York; and Lisa Austin, Edinboro University.  

2019 Howardena Pindell 
Jury: Lynne D. Allen, Boston University; Lisa Austin, Edinboro University; and Mira Schor, independent artist, New York City 

2018 Pepón Osorio
Jury: Lynne D. Allen, Boston University; Judith Russi Kirshner, independent curator, Chicago; and Mira Schor, independent artist, New York City.

2017 Faith Ringgold
Jury: Patricia Cronin, Brooklyn College, The City University of New York, chair; Lynne D. Allen, Boston University; and Judith Kirshner, The Art Institute of Chicago.

2016 Carmen Herrera
Jury: Susan Taylor, New Orleans Museum of Art, chair; Patricia Cronin, Brooklyn College, City University of New York; and Judith Kirshner, The Art Institute of Chicago

2015 Keith Sonnier
Jury: Roy Dowell, Otis College of Art and Design; Darby English, Clark Art Institute;and Susan Taylor, New Orleans Museum of Art.

2014 Yvonne Rainer
Jury: Judith K. Brodsky, Rutgers University, chair; Roy Dowell, Otis College of Art and Design; and Darby English, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

2013 Ellsworth Kelly
Jury: Ian Berry, Skidmore College, chair; Judith K. Brodsky, Rutgers University; and Roy Dowell, Otis College of Art and Design

2012 David Hammons
Jury: Ian Berry, Skidmore College, chair; Judith K. Brodsky, Rutgers University; and Helen Molesworth, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

2011 Lynda Benglis
Jury: Stephanie Barron, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, chair; Ian Berry, Skidmore College; and Hannah Higgins, University of Illinois, Chicago

2010 Suzanne Lacy
Jury: Stephanie Barron, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, chair; Hannah Higgins, University of Illinois, Chicago; and Alison de Lima Green, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

2009 Chris Burden
Jury: Stephanie Barron, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, chair; Hannah Higgins, University of Illinois, Chicago; and Ann Temkin, Museum of Modern Art

2008 Sylvia Sleigh
Jury: Leo Morrissey, Winston-Salem State University, chair; Robert Berlind, Purchase College, State University of New York; and Ann Temkin, Museum of Modern Art

2007 Will Barnet
Jury: Leo Morrissey, Winston-Salem State University, chair; Robert Berlind, Purchase College, State University of New York; and Ann Temkin, Museum of Modern Art

2006 Elizabeth Murray
Jury: Hearne Pardee, University of California, Davis, chair; Georgia Strange, Indiana University; Leo Morrissey, Winston-Salem State University; and Robert Berlind, Purchase College, State University of New York

2005 Nancy Spero
Committee: Richard Roth, Virginia Commonwealth University, chair; Hearne Pardee, University of California, Davis; Buzz Spector, Cornell University; and Georgia Strange, Indiana University, Bloomington

2004 Wayne Thiebaud
Committee: Richard Roth, Virginia Commonwealth University, chair; Hearne Pardee, University of California, Davis; Buzz Spector, Cornell University; and Georgia Strange, Indiana University, Bloomington

2003 Alison Knowles
Committee: Richard Roth, Virginia Commonwealth University, chair; Bailey Doogan, University of Arizona; Buzz Spector, Cornell University; and Ann Tucker, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

2002 Miriam Schapiro
Committee: Bailey Doogan, University of Arizona, chair; Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, independent artist, New Mexico; Richard Roth, Virginia Commonwealth University; and Anne Tucker, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

2001 Hollis Sigler and May Stevens
Committee: Bailey Doogan, University of Arizona, chair; Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, independent artist, New Mexico; Holly Block, Art in General; Archie Rand, Columbia University; and Anne Tucker, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

2000 Robert Blackburn
Committee: Deborah Willis, Smithsonian Institution, chair; Holly Block, Art in General; Joe Deal, Rhode Island School of Design; and Archie Rand, Columbia University

1999 John Baldessari
Committee: William D. Paul Jr., University of Georgia, chair; Holly Block, Art in General; Younghee Choi Martin, independent artist; and Joe Deal, Washington University in St. Louis

1998 Paul Cadmus and Agnes Martin
Committee: William D. Paul Jr., University of Georgia, chair; Joe Deal, Washington University in St. Louis; Younghee Choi Martin, independent artist; and Deborah Willis, Smithsonian Institution

1997 Peter Voulkos
Committee: Deborah Willis, Smithsonian Institution, chair; Rupert Garcia, independent artist; Younghee Choi Martin, independent artist; and Bill Paul, University of Georgia

1996 Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Committee: Deborah Willis, chair; Rupert Garcia; Richard Hunt; and Joyce Kozloff

1995 Ida Applebroog
Committee: Harry Rand, chair; Pat Adams; Rupert Garcia; Joyce Kozloff; and Margaret Lazzari

1994 Helen Frankenthaler
Committee: Harry Rand, chair; Pat Adams; and Margaret Lazzari

1993 Willem de Kooning
Committee: Whitney Davis, chair; Jack Perry Brown; and James Marrow

1992 Rupert Garcia
Committee: Joseph Mannino, chair; Camille Billops; Phillip Chen; and Margaret Lazzari

1991 Hans Haacke
Committee: Ann Page, chair; Margo Kren; Joseph Mannino; and John O’Connor

1990 Jacob Lawrence
Committee: Sam Gilliam Jr., chair; Audrey Flack; Keith Morrison; Anne Page; and Esther Parada

1989 Louise Bourgeois
Committee: Sharon Gold, chair; Deborah Butterfield; Sam Gilliam; Douglas Huebler; and Joan Semmel

1988 Joan Mitchell
Committee: Cynthia Carlson, chair; Siah Armajani; John Baldessari; Sharon Gold; and Ray Yoshida